Chapter 93: The Big Barbecue
Jiang Zhengkai carefully surveyed A-Tie’s residence. The place was a mess. Most of the furniture had been badly damaged, and blood splatters were everywhere. From the looks of it, A-Tie had put up quite a fight with the intruders before he’d been overpowered.
“Are there any valuable leads?” Jiang Zhengkai asked his colleague from the Material Evidence Division as the latter was in the middle of collecting evidence.
“Not yet, Inspector Jiang,” the crime scene investigator politely replied when he saw it was Jiang Zhengkai who had asked the question. “However, from the amount of damage in the room, we can tell that a serious physical struggle had occurred here. Furthermore, the attackers were not professional killers. They stabbed the victim multiple times, but none of the stab wounds were fatal. It’s possible that they didn’t actually want to kill the victim.” The crime scene investigator paused for a second, but continued when he saw Jiang Zhengkai repeatedly nodding his head. “Also, the crime scene was severely contaminated by the victim’s neighbors when they came in to rescue him. We are currently trying to separate the suspects’ footprints and fingerprints from those of the neighbors, but that will take some time and effort.”
“Alright. Keep up the good work!” Jiang Zhengkai said as he patted the crime scene investigator on the shoulder. Then he turned around and exited A-Tie’s home, which was now surrounded by numerous officers from the local police station.
After chatting with a few officers, Jiang Zhengkai was easily able to find the officer in charge of taking eyewitness statements from the neighbors. From there, he personally interviewed several of the neighbors who had initially discovered the attack and called the police. From what he was able to gather from their statements, Jiang Zhengkai now knew that there were at least four attackers, at least one of whom was a local, because a neighbor heard that one speaking with a local accent as they fled the scene.
“Remember to preserve the crime scene as best you can,” ordered Jiang Zhengkai. He gave the disheveled room one more glance before he left. He knew it would be very difficult to retrieve anything of evidentiary value here, so he grabbed Lu Xiaoqiang and left A-Tie’s home.
On the way back to the sub-bureau, Jiang Zhengkai called the hospital. He knew Zhang Nan had already left the hospital to go to the crime scene, but unfortunately, Jiang Zhengkai hadn’t run into him there. As for A-Tie, he was still in a comatose state. The two sub-bureau officers that Jiang Zhengkai had called for were now standing guard outside A-Tie’s hospital room as well. Over the phone, Jiang Zhengkai reiterated to the four officers on guard duty that they must guarantee A-Tie’s safety by providing round-the-clock protection.
When Jiang Zhengkai returned to his office, the first thing he did was to lock away the documents he had received from Zheng Yueshan in one of his drawers. He then sat down in his chair and went over all of the new developments that had occurred and the new leads that had been found in recent days. By now, he was even more certain that A-Tie’s attack was related to the serial murders in the alley. Based on the marks left by the struggle in A-Tie’s home and the nature of his injuries, Jiang Zhengkai reasonably concluded that this case had nothing to do with the Bald Wolf. Quite the contrary: he was reasonably certain that the case involved the remnants of the Sui Dequan crime family. However, there weren’t any eyewitness accounts or direct evidence to support his beliefs, so they remained just theories for the time being.
“Honey, are you free for lunch?” A-Jiao called Jiang Zhengkai right before noon. When a woman feels like she’s done something to owe her man, she’ll become exceedingly clingy and feel like she needs to do something to make him whole again.
“Hmm… yes!” Jiang Zhengkai had originally wanted to reject A-Jiao’s invitation and tell her that he had to work on an assault and battery case, but then he remembered that she knew A-Tie. Perhaps he could get some leads from her. That was why he hesitated for a moment before accepting A-Jiao’s invitation. “Where do you want to go eat, then?”
“Up to you! But I don’t want to eat noodles anymore,” A-Jiao said sweetly over the phone. “We always eat noodles. I feel like I’m turning into a noodle!”
“Oh, hehe!” Jiang Zhengkai laughed out loud. A-Jiao always had the uncanny ability to calm his frayed nerves. “Then how about… barbecue?” replied Jiang Zhengkai after thinking about it for a split second. When it comes to something quick and cheap in the summer, barbecue was just about the only choice other than noodles. The thought of eating at places like KFC, McDonald’s, or Pizza Hut never crossed his mind; not because he was too old to accept American fast food, but rather because those of his age thought American fast food was something that only Chinese children would eat.
“Oh, okay!” A-Jiao crisply agreed. Even though many women tend to be picky eaters, A-Jiao only cared about the person she was eating with. As for what she was actually eating, she was not nearly as picky as the dearly departed Wei Xin.
Jiang Zhengkai picked A-Jiao up at the preschool and then drove to a rather elegantly-decorated barbecue joint. He found a small table, and the two of them sat down. Since this was technically a date, Jiang Zhengkai wasn’t about to actually take A-Jiao to eat barbecue kebabs at a roadside food stall. Of course, A-Jiao wouldn’t mind as long as Jiang Zhengkai was with her. Still, Jiang Zhengkai wasn’t a complete doofus, and knew the importance of a romantic setting.
“Why did you take me here?” asked A-Jiao as she sat down across from Jiang Zhengkai and looked at the restaurant’s interior decoration. “Did you just get paid, Honey? Or is it because you are hiding something?”
“Hehe!” Jiang Zhengkai couldn’t help but laugh. “Am I that deplorable in the eyes of my beloved?”
“No, that’s not what I meant,” said A-Jiao as she furiously shook her head. “I was just curious. Why would such a normally stingy person take me to a fancy place like this?” She asked this almost unintelligibly, as she played around with the restaurant’s spoon in her mouth.
“It’s impossible to get a good word out of you!” Even though Jiang Zhengkai couldn’t really make out what A-Jiao was saying, he nevertheless knew that in the current situation, she would certainly not be saying anything complimentary towards him. “Take a look at the menu and tell me what you want to eat.”
“Hmph! You’re the one that never says anything nice!” A-Jiao loudly retorted as she took the spoon out of her mouth. She glanced at the menu that Jiang Zhengkai had just handed her and said, “Order whatever you’d like. This empress is in a good mood today, so I’ll be fine with whatever you order.” In actuality, A-Jiao was thinking, It’s not as if I had a choice! You’re going to order what you want anyway!
Jiang Zhengkai looked at A-Jiao and smiled. He didn’t respond further. He simply looked at the menu and circled a bunch of items on it. He knew A-Jiao was open to all sorts of different foods, and there wasn’t anything she didn’t eat that he knew of. In fact, the stranger the food, the more likely she was to try it. When the server returned to their table, Jiang Zhengkai had already picked out everything he wanted to order, so he simply handed the marked-up menu to the server.
“Did you want to order beer as well?” It has almost become a custom for barbecue to be accompanied by beer. As a result, the restaurant server asked Jiang Zhengkai if he wanted beer, despite the fact that Jiang Zhengkai hadn’t ordered any.
“No, I’ll just have water, thank you,” replied Jiang Zhengkai as he shook his head. “And she’ll have a glass of orange juice.” When he turned and saw that A-Jiao didn’t disagree, Jiang Zhengka looked back at the surprised server and added, “I’m driving.”
After the server left, A-Jiao looked at Jiang Zhengkai, bit her lips, and quietly laughed. “No, I’ll just have water, thank you… I’m driving. You are so concise in your explanation!”
“Why you!” Jiang Zhengkai looked at A-Jiao’s funny face and no choice but to sigh helplessly. “Honey, I have something to tell you,” he said as he leaned back in his chair. “A-Tie was attacked. He’s hurt pretty bad.”
“Really?” A-Jiao immediately stopped laughing when she heard what Jiang Zhengkai had just said. If she could continue to laugh after hearing such grave news, then Jiang Zhengkai would definitely think that there was something wrong with her mentally. “When did this happen?” A-Jiao asked seriously. “Do you know who did it?”
“Not yet,” replied Jiang Zhengkai as he shrugged his shoulders. “It happened this morning. At around 4 AM.”
“Oh, then do you not know the motive either?” As she spoke, A-Jiao’s facial expression grew serious. After all, she had interacted with A-Shun and A-Tie on a daily basis for two years of her life. The fact that they were involved in a not-so-flattering profession didn’t mean that their years of working together wouldn’t create some kind of a bond between them.
“Correct,” Jiang Zhengkai nodded. He could tell A-Jiao was truly worried about A-Tie. Right at that moment, the server brought out all of the barbecue items Jiang Zhengkai had ordered, along with A-Jiao’s glass of orange juice and his glass of water.
“Here, let’s eat first,” said Jiang Zhengkai as he handed A-Jiao her orange juice.
“Okay.” A-Jiao’s train of thought had obviously been derailed by Jiang Zhengkai’s words. She came out of her deep contemplation and took the orange juice that he’d handed her. She took a small sip and then furiously thought of something. She pursed her lips and looked angrily at him. “Hmph! You annoying jerk! You told me all that before lunch on purpose, didn’t you? Well, don’t think I won’t eat anything just because of what you said! Hmph!”